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Why Campaigns For Biya Don’t Add Up 

By Azore Opio

Frankly speaking, it is not my intention to hurt any feelings, but after thought, deep reflection, discussion, and prayer, I came to the decision to separate truth from falsehood. The party fondly called the Cameroon People’s Drinking Movement, sorry, forgive the slip, Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, (CPDM) has been a slow-moving national disaster. In a way, the so-called CPDM bigwigs and the common party militants are singing different songs.

The party is profitable and growing, with operators spinning a far brighter tale for Etoudi than for the commoners. The militants, on their part, are heartbroken, downtrodden and uncertain of tomorrow. Their votes don’t count. Their voices are never heard. They feel utterly cheated.

So powerful is the political drumbeat that the reactionaries have somewhat won support from their traditional cronies; raising funds here and there. In a town-to-town campaign, complete with high-level lobbying, hyperbolic image building, praise-singing, near doomsday advertising, and trips to gather petitions, some CPDM old fogeys are feverishly "warning" of disaster; the demise of the nation, if President Paul Biya is not voted again to the helm of the presidential yacht. For the third time running in the new seven-year mandate.

True, a Cameroon without Biya is likely to contract the Ivory Coast black pod disease. Yet, a Cameroon with Biya clinging to power year after year, even against popular opinion that he has tirelessly served the country for so long and, perhaps, so well, and so, therefore, deserves a comfortable retirement, has consequences ranging from the relatively minor to the catastrophic North African flu.

Though the praise-singers try to paint a fabulous fresco of their natural candidate, their campaigns are light in details. They have no concrete programmes on how Biya is going to salvage the nation from the morass it has sank into; only their hackneyed slogan "better days are ahead" is sweet on their lips.

Without flinching, they conveniently forget that bad healthcare, bad roads, grim incidents of death, party militants and civil servants steering huge chunks of public revenues to themselves, have been staples in Cameroon’s social life. That reminds me. Recently, two news items attracted my attention and I thought it worth the while to mull over on them. One concerned cholera and the visit by Health Minister, Mama Fouda, to Limbe, Tiko and Buea in the Southwest Region.

Mama Fouda gave a remarkable advice to the villagers afflicted by cholera. "It is important for us to see how we can fight this cholera together. If you have water, make sure you boil it before drinking. He was right to say, "if you have water", because most Cameroonians don’t have access to potable water.  Then he added, naively, that it is difficult for Government to provide potable water to all citizens. We are tickled to ask; what is the use of Government when it cannot provide basic water to its taxpayers?

The other aching remark came from Mezam SDO, Joseph Bertrand Njoungwet. He was reacting to anger expressed at AES-SONEL. He said the State, which brought the electricity company, bears part of the responsibility for what it does. I guess he meant Government is privy to the rip-offs like epileptic power supply, overbilling, overcrowded payment centres, uncalled for fines and all the like, committed by AES-SONEL.

And he added frivolously, moreover, that the problem of light is not peculiar to the Northwest. Even the Presidency sometimes experiences blackouts, he said. For Christ’s sake, even the Presidency sometimes experiences blackouts! At best, what we take for a joke, Government and her collaborators demand the most punctilious light-fingered etiquette to keep the public till as clean as a whistle, far more than the taxpayers ever bargained for.

The other day, a certain minister stated that even if Ndian produces oil, it doesn’t really need roads. For heavens sake, is this breed of people so blinded by greed that they think only of their skins; big slobs of ferment eating up little yeasts? Don’t they ever imagine for a second that their utterances could be nauseating? Government cannot do this; government cannot do that; so why does Government continue to collect taxes? Why do CPDM bogeys want a flippant government to continue lording it over the people?

There are regions in Cameroon that have been left to die – Lebialem, Manyu, Ndian, Kupe Muanenguba. In the past few years, the regions have become famous for two interconnected blights: bad roads and poverty. Ndian boasts of more than bad roads; cocoa, afofo and sex! All these seem to please the CPDM wireworms, who believe that they will continue blackmailing "meek" Cameroonians forever.

History doesn’t hesitate, and never tires to repeat itself. The fears of the people are diminishing, slowly, and as surely as there is no snow in the Sahara. That is why the Nguti youth recently called on the Head of State to "scratch their back if they should vote for him". Back-scratching is not a one-way industry. It goes the other way round too. The youth of Nguti seem to have had enough of scratching one man’s back forever and he not caring to return a favour, as it were.

At the risk of holding brief for Nguti youth and their counterparts nationwide, the CPDM moguls would like to remember that the population and economic activities of Ndian have increased over the years; the youth have since been wearing the same tight shoes, pinching and blistering their soles.

They want disenclavement; roads linking their villages; good health centres and schools; electricity, pipe-borne water, bridges. Employment. In short, good living in return for scratching politicians’ scurvy backs; not voting on empty stomachs and giving the CPDM "landslide victories" and trite ministerial posts. That applies to the entire nation.

That goes too for CPDM militants in Kupe Muanenguba I. Their fears too, have started diminishing. Recently, they stated categorically that they are angry, although they pledged to vote President Biya at the upcoming presidential election. Well, let’s wait and see how far the pledge works out.

A decade ago, the CPDM attracted more attention and operated, at least, nearer to the mainstream of Cameroonian life. Today, with the nation’s population becoming more enlightened, and fears diminishing, national budget woes tightening the screws all the more coupled with acute voter apathy, the CPDM runs the risk of expiring in no time.